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Traffic jam situation worst

WB experts for modernising Dhaka to achieve upper-middle income country status: Dhaka Mayors demand city govts

By Special Correspondent
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Global money lender World Bank has said it needs modernization of Dhaka to achieve the status of upper-middle income country by its 50th birthday while traffic congestion alone eats up around 3.2 million working hours per day.

In last one decade, the traffic jam situation has turned to the worst in the capital city reducing vehicles' speed from 21 km to 7 km per hour, which is only a little bit higher than the walking speed of a man, the WB said in a draft report on Wednesday.

The above information were revealed at an international seminar titled: 'Development Options for Dhaka towards 2035' held at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel presided over by WB's Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal Qimiao Fan.

Minister for LGRD Khandaker Mosarraf Hossain, WB's Chief Economist for the South Asia region Martin Rama, Mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation Sayeed Khokan, Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation Annisul Haq, Prime Minister's Principal Secretary Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, among others, spoke on the occasion.

Besides, former Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit and former Vice Mayor of Shanghai Qizheng Zhao shared their experiences on transformations in Delhi and in Eastern Shanghai's Pudong district in China.

The WB draft report -named 'Towards Great Dhaka, a new urban development paradigm eastward' which was placed at the seminar said that Dhaka's roads increased 5 per cent from 1995 to 2005 while vehicles movement increased 134 percent.  Besides, the population of Dhaka had increased 50 per cent during the aforesaid period.

According to the findings of the report, unplanned urbanization would deteriorate traffic congestion situation as well the livable situation would also get worse. It's not the end. The dwellers of Dhaka also will have to face the risk of flood and earthquake due to the same reasons.

Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford Anthony James Venables presented four simulation conditions for the development of Dhaka in 2035. He also said that it is the time to act, now.

In the analysis, the WB experts said 36 percent of the country's urban population living in greater Dhaka makes it one of the world's most densely populated cities.

The WB officials further said there is no harmonization between the city's fast expansion and its development programmes. For that reason, a disorderly and uneven urbanization are going on. A huge number of people including 3.5 million slum dwellers are often deprived from their fundamental rights and other infrastructural facilities.

In the WB report, it was mentioned that East Dhaka could turn into an excellent working place along with different infrastructural facilities by taking well plan-programnme and its implementation. The area of East Dhaka is about 40 per cent of entire mega city. So if it is possible, it will help to reduce traffic jam of other parts of Dhaka.

Expressing caution, Qimiao Fan said: "But if the present trend continues, the number of Dhaka's population will be 35 million in 2035. The WB looks forward to supporting the city's ambitious transformation, as Bangladesh is a long-term development partner."

Against this backdrop, two Mayors of Dhaka in the seminar suggested for 'well coordination' among the utility service providers. At the same time, both of them demanded to turn the city corporations into city governments.
Pointing to the limitations, DNCC Mayor Annisul Haq said: "WB is a good partner but a late decision maker. In Dhaka, the main problems are population and traffic. It needs a huge preparation. And also needs participation of government."

 "We're committed to change the city... We're fighting the present problems of water-logging and traffic congestion. The city authority needs involvement of the government for making the city smart," the DNCC Mayor said.

On the other hand, DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokan said: "Still there is no planned drainage or sewerage system. A number of 56 utility service providers are working here...…. So, the city corporations must be turned into city governments."   "There are a lot of challenges in the city, including lack of coordination of service provides and huge population. We really need some good plans for the extended areas to make the city smart," the DSCC Mayor said.

In his keynote speech, LGRD Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain said: "Dhaka city covers around 1 percent of Bangladesh's territory, but it accounts for around 36 percent of the country's GDP and 44 percent of formal employment."

 "Many of the urban service providers are facing challenges in meeting today's expectations. At present, the DNCC and DSCC have extended from 127 square kms to 270 square kms. This eastward expansion has brought new challenges for service providers. But we're determined to transform Dhaka, from its present reality, into a capital of a middle-income country," the Minister said.

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